Ne pas torturer l’esprit

Sit down and close your eyes. Let your brain wander along all kinds of thoughts.

On less pleasant days, I go straight to the fretting. On good days, I start with a long period of nice daydreaming. I experienced, however, that even when you do the daydreaming long enough you will start worrying eventually.

Do it again. Instead of uncontrolled thinking, however, stop thinking. Meditate. Concentrate on everything in the present moment. Focus your attention on the breath for instance and on how the body moves with each inhalation and exhalation. When you wander off, just go get back to the present. You’ll realize that the contrary happens. Even if you had difficulties doing this right away, you will get into a state of non-thinking sooner or later. It feels peaceful, right?

The present vs. the rest

The crux here is that you will never experience negative emotions when you are in the present. The present just is. Everything negative you experience now, is nurished by the past. The fear you feel now for example is rooted in thoughts about what could happen according to earlier experiences. The anger is based on an earlier happening. You don’t believe me? I dare you to feel any negative emotion based on only what happens now. If you succeed, write a book about it and make millions.

This is not a call to stop the thinking completely. That would turn you into a houseplant. It’s a call to do it controlled. Or – to be more precise – to stop thoughts controlling you. Thinking is meant to be problem-solving. Doing that completly unhinged leads to the continuous repetition of the same thinking or illogical thinking which leads to no results. That creates more problems. Dwelling in problems without finding a solution is stressful. You then are fretting the mind. Auch! The French also use a descriptive word for this unhealthy habit that says it all: torturer l’esprit. Torturing your mind.


So how to stop fretting? For an avid mediator it is not news that excessive thinking is the root of all emotional evil. They train themselves to send the mind into the right direction when it gets triggered. It takes time to master this life skill well, however. Best, then, is to start today. Start meditating. If you’re new to meditation or if you gave up on it, I would recommend the 44 Day Training Program by Zen Habits.

Eliminating triggers

Up until you become the master of your domain, you’re not screwed. Instead of controlling the triggers for example, you can eliminate them. The easiest way to do so is to get rid of the stuff. Look around your house. Find the items that trigger emotions. It can be any emotion. Evaluate that emotion. What do you feel and why do you feel that? It’s triggered by the past, isn’t it? Sentimental things – even the not so obvious ones like your last birthday present –  mostly are a tangible reminder of events and people. It could also be a reminder of a stigma you’ve leared in the past. A stigma you need to fulfill. The yoga mat in the basement for example, that was meant to make you look like you should in western society. And what about all those books you should have read to become the worthy intellectual you have to be. They won’t make you more intellectual by looking at them and you know it. Fretting already?

Even if you are not experiencing it super conscious, your brain is working overtime with all those triggers in place. I’m talking about positive and negative triggers. You may not realize it until something else gets added that is the last straw that breaks the camel’s back. Get rid of it, before it’s too late. At least of the negative ones for now. If you need the item, replace it. Thank me when you start feeling relieved.

2 thoughts on “Ne pas torturer l’esprit

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  1. Great post! Have you also followed the Zen Habits course? I’d love to be more intentional with meditation, but of often seems to end up last on my priority list. Or maybe more honest: the benefits sound awesome, but I just keep forgetting to do it. Even though following through with courses isn’t my strong suit, this might be something worthwile…


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